Editor’s note: sometimes the best destinations are those nearest to home. This is a lovely few-day itinerary for Ventura, California from Jackie. For more of her trip ideas, click here to visit her index page!

Most of us enjoy the peacefulness of the beach, watching and listening to the waves, watching sea birds and just getting away. But many beaches are not so peaceful – big crowds – or take a lot of time and money to get there, like Hawaii, for instance. We have found a respite in Ventura, CA, just 70 miles north/west of Los Angeles and 30 miles south of Santa Barbara. During the pandemic we went several times to the beach in Ventura (quiet, clean, serene, safe from a COVID point-of-view) and picnicked there. So, we decided to spend our anniversary in Ventura this year.

We started by going to the big and beautiful San Buenaventura (meaning good fortune) State Beach. There is a large parking lot adjacent to many picnic tables with just a short stroll to the beach. It was mid-week, after Labor Day, so the beach was not at all crowded and very relaxing to watch and listen to the waves and seagulls. This was exactly the calm we sought and a great way to start our mini-trip.

San Buenaventura State Beach

Following our picnic lunch, we drove to the Ventura Botanical Gardens. They are located on a hill (all uphill from the welcome/ticketing office). The path wound up the side of the hill and with every turn there was a lovely view of the coast. The lower part of the botanical gardens focuses on preserving plants from Chile. Because of the relatively steep path, we went only about halfway to the top, but it was well worth the climb.

View from Ventura Botanical Gardens towards San Buenaventura Beach

Even though it was not spring, there were still beautiful flowers in the garden.

Some of the flowers in Ventura Botanical Gardens and another ocean view

Both from the beach and from the gardens we could see our hotel, the Crown Plaza, which is right on the coast. The view from our hotel room was amazing!

Sunset from our hotel room

The next day we walked to San Buenaventura Mission, the ninth and last mission consecrated by Father Junipero Serra (now Saint Junipero Serra). It was founded in 1782. It has a small museum with a video about the mission and Junipero Serra, the main church, a newly built school, and other buildings surrounding a lovely and peaceful garden with trees, plants, a fountain, and a statue of Junipero Serra.

Garden at San Buenaventura Mission

The main church was reconstructed after an earthquake in 1816.

Main altar of the San Buenaventura Mission

We walked along Main Street, which is a pedestrian walkway, with many restaurants. Because it was in the middle of a weekday after Labor Day, it was not crowded. There are also many boutique shops as well as some thrift shops. But it is nice to walk and window shop with no cars.

Main Street pedestrian walkway

Ventura does have some historic sites, besides the mission. Here is one of the old homes we saw as we walked to brunch. It is the A. D. Briggs House, a Queen Anne Style home, built in 1894.

Historic A. D. Briggs House

Later that day and the next day before we left, we walked along the boardwalk near our hotel. There are lots of surfers on this part of the coast and it was fun to watch them. In addition, there were pelicans we could see diving into the water. The boardwalk goes for several miles and is a very pleasant walk with lots of benches to stop and watch the waves and surfers and pelicans.

Surfer near our hotel boardwalk

There are many restaurants to choose from in Ventura. We chose Lure Fish House for the first night. Two highlights were delicious roasted Brussels sprouts (with miso), perhaps the best Brussels sprouts I have ever had, along with perfectly cooked fish (I had sea bass). And they gave us a free hot fudge sundae for our anniversary! We also had a late brunch at Café Nouveau (recommended by friends). They have a lovely, shaded patio which was great. The chocolate, walnut, and banana pancakes were delicious! Our second dinner was at Spasso Cuchina Italiana. The food was great, but the portions were enormous! Next time we will share something! Again, we had a delicious chocolate dessert (perhaps you see one of my major weaknesses here!) called Budino al Cioccolato.

If you want an enjoyable, relaxing couple of days and live near Los Angeles, try Ventura.

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